House resolution seeks to adopt 'restrictive' rules on media coverage
MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – A House resolution has been filed seeking the adoption of proposed rules for media coverage that were previously criticized for being restrictive towards journalists.
Eastern Samar Representative Ben Evardone, new chairperson of the committee on public information, sounded the alarm on House Resolution (HR) No. 2149 filed by Antipolo City 1st District Representative Cristina Roa Puno.
"In a way, it might restrict your access to securing vital information… May guidelines eh (there are guidelines),” said Evardone.
"Hindi naman masamang magkaroon ng guidelines, pero kung to the point na ma-prevent kayo in your efforts to secure...information, data, etcetera, eh parang hindi maganda ’yon,” he added.
(It’s not bad to have guidelines, but if it reaches the point that it would prevent you from your effects to secure… information, data, etcetera, I think that’s not good.)
What do the proposed rules for media coverage say? HR 2149, which Puno filed on September 4, wants the House to adopt the Proposed Rules for Media Coverage. Puno argued doing so is “imperative to guarantee freedom of the press and on information, while ensuring public order and safety.”
HR 2149 remains pending with the committee on rules since September 5. The rules committee calendars bills and resolutions at the plenary and is also in charge of the rules of the House.
The first version of the proposed rules for media coverage was first drafted during the term of ousted speaker and Davao del Norte 1st District Pantaleon Alvarez. House reporters heavily opposed the proposal at the time. (READ: PH lawmakers seek to ban reporters who 'besmirch' them)
But Puno clarified that the proposed rules mentioned in her resolution is already an amended version of the proposal drafted by the previous House leadership.
“We have revised the version first presented to media during Alvarez’ time. The current version went through consultations even with media members and please be assured it does not in any way curtail press freedom,” said Puno, who was formerly a television news anchor and sporscaster.
“As a media practitioner, I made sure of it. This is just for the safety of both members and media members and also to safeguard order and security within the House,” she added.
But Evardone, who used to be a House reporter before running for office, pointed out that some of the provisions under the current version will still make House coverage difficult for reporters.
One example he mentioned was the restriction to conduct ambush interviews at the lobby of the Batasang Pambansa’s main building. He also said foreign correspondents would be required to secure an endorsement from the embassy before they can gain access to the House.
“Hindi mo puwedeng bigyan ng kahon 'yong reporter (You can restrict the reporter)” said Evardone.
A little past 5 pm, Puno herself went to the House press office to talk to reporters regarding the proposed rules. She clarified the intention is not to curtial press freedom.
"I believe it’s also for your benefit kung meron (if we have one). Syempre ang concern niyo (Of course, your concern) is you have to get your story and all of that, and we want to make sure that none of that is curtailed, none of that is challenged. We just have to work around certain boundaries, which exist naman everywhere else," said Puno.
She said the draft rules on media coverage were based on guidelines being implemented by various parliaments abroad.
On the issues Evardone raised, Puno said what the proposed House rules would impose is implementing "mixed zones" in certain areas of Batasan. Any lawmaker or resource person who wish to be interviewed would have to go to these mixed zones to talk to the media.
Puno also said having a letter of endorsement from the embassy concerned would ensure that foreign correspondents who wish to cover in the House are bonafide reporters.
For now, Puno agreed to give House reporters time to review the draft rules and formally raise concerns over questionable provisions.
Will the current House leadership push for HR 2149? For now, it does not appear so.
Evardone said that based on his initial talks with Puno, Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo wants thorough discussions on the proposed rules for media coverage at the committee level.
“Based on my initial discussion with Congresswoman Roa-Puno, apparently, na-discuss niya kay Speaker and the Speaker told her to go through the motion: Idaan sa committee, pag-usapan. Kasi otherwise, i-a-adopt siya ng House as rules na siguro, as guidelines. Mabuti rin yung desisyon ng ating butihing Speaker na i-consult muna sa committee, sa mga stakeholders,” he said.
(Based on my initial discussion with Congresswoman Roa Puno, apparently, she already discussed it with the Speaker and the Speaker told her to go through the motion: Bring it to the committee and discuss it. Otherwise, it would be adopted by the House. It’s good that’s the decision of the honorable Speaker, to consult the committee and the stakeholders.)
Evardone gave reporters the assurance that as public information panel chairperson, he would consult with journalists to assess the proposed rules on media coverage.
Puno clarified, however, that the proposed rules on media coverage on media coverage may not even pass through Evardone's panel and will instead just be tackled at the rules committee. – Rappler.com